Monday, November 30, 2009

City-County Council Meets Tonight

The Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council meets tonight and takes up a couple of interesting Proposals.

According to today's Star article by Francesca Jarosz, the current thought is to send the smoking ban back to committee to buy more time to get the votes needed for passage. This is a very difficult Proposal (#371) to get passed given, especially, the role that Mayor Ballard has chosen to play in the debate - a closed door pronouncement against the Proposal meant to shield him from actually having to take a public stand. So much for leadership. I have heard a book on the subject touted by some business people. Perhaps someone should give it to the Mayor as a holiday gift?

But, other interesting Proposals are also on tonight's agenda - which can be found on the Council website. Prop 303, introduced a couple of months back by Councillor Ed Coleman, which would require the internet posting of all contracts with the City or County government, passed out of the Rules Committee this month with a 8-0 'do pass' recommendation. (It should be noted that no Municipal Corporation would be required to do the same through this Proposal; presumably because the Council does not have legal power to require it.) Testimony at the committee was that it will cost $34,000 for 2010 for initial implementation and posting of the backlog of contracts and $7,000 each year thereafter. In the plus column for this one, the Ballard administration is on board with the Proposal. Chris Cotterill, Corporate Counsel and soon to be Chief of Staff to Mayor Ballard, testified that, although the language of the Proposal does not strictly require it, they intend to post all contracts that are still active, even if the contract was signed prior to January 1, 2008. Councillors on the Committee include Republicans Lutz, Cockrum, Malone, Pfisterer, and Plowman, and, Democrats Sanders, Grey, and Mansfield.

Also passing out of that committee the same night with 'do pass' recommendations was Prop 256, introduced by Councillor Sanders, Plowman, and both Maherns, which is a Special Resolution that "calls upon the hospitality industry to reduce the negative impact of outsourcing jobs on the community". This proposal was first introduced back when the hospitality industry was hiding behind the skirts of the same workers in order to beg for more public money to subsidize their room rates to conventioneers. The Proposal passed out of committee with Councillor Cockrum abstaining, since his son works for White Lodging, which is building the new Marriott hotel downtown. Cockrum seems to be splitting hairs - abstaining on a Special Resolution that only seeks to influence, but not abstaining on raising taxes to increase funding to the CIB and ICVA, the latter of which uses tax dollars to subsidize the room rates of downtown hotels, thus enriching folks like Councillor Cockrum's son.

And for a trifecta of interesting Proposals passing out of the Rules Committee in one night, was Prop 417, which is another Special Resolution, introduced by Councillors Malone, Pfisterer, B. Mahern, Lutz, Smith, and McHenry. Prop 417 requests that the General Assembly enable the Council to have a binding review of all Township budgets. With the tax caps coming in, the taxing authority of the individual entities in Marion County must begin to be coordinated, in my view. Even if this exact corrective action is not the final mechanism, it does lead us down the path of discussing exactly how to coordinate the property tax levies of all these taxing entities. This passed out of committee with a unanimous 'do pass' recommendation.

Other interesting Proposals up for a final vote of the full Council tonight, I'll just cut and paste from the agenda:

PROPOSAL NO. 413, 2009 (General Ordinance)
INTRODUCED: 11/09/2009
BY: Councillors Brown, Scales and Speedy
REFERRED TO: Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee
DIGEST: amends the Code to clarify the definition and violation of animal at large, to expand the definition of serious injury, to specifically provide for court-ordered forfeiture and/or destruction of an animal if serious injury to a person results from the animal chasing or approaching a person in an aggressive manner while at large, and to change the reference to serious bodily injury to serious injury in the section on owner responsibility for animal attacks
COMMITTEE ACTION: 11/11/2009 Do Pass 6-0

PROPOSAL NO. 419, 2009 (General Resolution)
INTRODUCED: 11/09/2009
BY: Councillors McQuillen and Nytes
REFERRED TO: Municipal Corporations Committee
DIGEST: approves the purchase, construction or acquisition by the Indianapolis-Marion County Building Authority of all or any portion of the Wishard Hospital project and a proposed lease or leases between the Building Authority and the Health and Hospital Corporation to finance all or any portion of the Wishard Hospital project
COMMITTEE ACTION: 11/23/2009 Do Pass As Amended 6-1

Interesting Proposals to be introduced tonight - again by my eye - include:

PROPOSAL NO. 427, 2009 (Fiscal Ordinance)
INTRODUCED: 11/30/2009
BY: Councillor Pfisterer
REFERRED TO: Administration and Finance Committee
DIGEST: provides for additional appropriations and transfers in the 2009 Budget for various city and county agencies affecting various city and county funds to provide for continued operations and services of agencies
Included, among other things, is the 2009 Parks budget transfer of $200,000 from 'personal services' (wages) and $150,000 from 'internal charges' to 'other services and charges', which includes outsourcing contracts. This one deserves scrutiny.

PROPOSAL NO. 428, 2009 (Fiscal Ordinance)
INTRODUCED: 11/30/2009
BY: Councillor Pfisterer
REFERRED TO: Administration and Finance Committee
DIGEST: reduces 2009 appropriations for various city and county agencies
Over $5 million reduction total. Cuts throughout the City and County agencies.

PROPOSAL NO. 457, 2009 (General Resolution)
INTRODUCED: 11/30/2009
BY: Councillor Mansfield
REFERRED TO: Rules and Public Policy Committee
DIGEST: approves a request of the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township to certify its public question referendum to the County Election Board for the May 2010 election
"For the next seven calendar years immediately following the holding of the referendum, shall the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township impose a property tax rate that does not exceed eight cents ($0.08) on each one hundred dollars ($100) of assessed valuation and that is in addition to the school corporation's normal tuition support tax rate?"

PROPOSAL NO. 458, 2009 (General Ordinance)
INTRODUCED: 11/30/2009
BY: Councillor McQuillen
REFERRED TO: Rules and Public Policy Committee
DIGEST: amends the Code with respect to the number of committee meetings for which a councillor may be compensated in any calendar year
This one you should read for yourself to see all the manner of compensation the Councillors get. Not saying its not deserved pay, but it is very detailed in its construction. The change from the status quo appears to be an increase in the maximum number of committee meetings for which a Councillor can be compensated - increasing from the current 40 to a new maximum of 50 committee meetings.

The Council is not slowing down just because of the Holidays. That is for sure.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hearing on Prop 418 to be Delayed

The previously scheduled hearing on Prop 418 by the Metropolitan Development Committee of the Council on Monday night will be postponed until that committee’s next meeting on Monday, December 7 – again that committee’s meetings begin at 5:30 pm in room 260 of the City-County Building.

Prop 418 is the Council Resolution calling on the State Legislature to empower the Council to review abatement decisions made by the MDC.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More On Steve Buyer's Frontier Foundation

Thanks to my friend Jon Easter for this link to the CBS interview with Representative Steve Buyer about his Frontier Foundation. You will recall that this Foundation has taken in over $800,000 and not given out a single scholarship. I have commented on this in two entries -- Buyer Supporting a Fake Charity and Buyer's Denials Don't Ring True.

Jon has the cut 'for broadcast' video clip on his blog as well as the one below:
Let's all chip in and get Buyer a shovel so he can dig his hole faster.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

IBJ Editorial is Spot On

I was just listening to the IBJ podcast for November 9, when Chris Katterjohn, IBJ's editor, began reading the IBJ editorial from last Friday, titled "Tough love from taxpayers fed up with school spending". It was spot on. I had to pull it down and provide a link here.
Across Indiana, in more than a dozen different school districts over the past year, taxpayers have sent a message to administrators: We are no longer giving you a blank check.

That's how it begins. A couple of paragraphs down it puts everything in proper perspective:
There’s no doubt such rejections have created difficult decisions for many school districts, but that is exactly what the new law was supposed to do—force administrators to examine their budgets and start making smarter decisions about spending.

I'll leave it to you if you are intrigued enough to finish it. But, it was brilliant.

The CIB Is Working Hard For the Pacers

Time is tight for me today, so I will be sending you to read some good blogs arising from two IBJ articles on the CIB and its finances. Short story is that the CIB is crowing about how well it turned around its failed finances; so much so they are pulling a profit now and don't need the State's gracious offer for a $27 million loan at 5 % plus interest rate. All that despite the partially successful 'end times for downtown' campaign they waged all year to secure wads of money that at times added up to $50 million this year and another $50 million this year and every year going forward. A few short hours later the CIB is reported to be eyeballing that loan and talking about that $15 million gift per year, every year going forward, to the Simons and Pacers to run Conseco Fieldhouse. The Pacers already get 100% of all revenue from the Fieldhouse, but you know how hard it can be to pull a profit when you can't fill the seats for your home games because you picked players whose antics turned the community sour on your franchise.

Here are the originating IBJ article links:

And the great blog entries by Paul Ogden and Gary Welsh:

Let me just add, all the seats for the Capital Improvement Board of Managers are ended January 15, 2010 -- this by the same legislation that allowed the City Council to increase the Hotel Tax by 1% to capture another $4 million a year and expand the Professional Sports Development Area to capture another $8 million a year, and offer the $9 million a year loan for three years from the state to the CIB. The same old people can be reappointed, but hopefully the appointing bodies will not be so lame in their decisions. Top of my list to be gone are Bob Grand, who represents the Pacers and has always had a clear conflict of interest, and Pat Early who has served on the CIB for nearly a generation and helped negotiate the original Conseco Fieldhouse contract and who has been the prime cheerleader for giving the ENTIRE store away to the Pacers, just like he voted for the ENTIRE store be given to the Colts.

All of this sudden burst of energy directed to the benefit of the Simons and the Pacers may be so that their work is done before a responsible Board takes their place. Well, I would hope a responsible Board takes their place. That awaits the list of appointees and some time for their ambitions to be assessed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gambling Revenue - Its Ups and Downs

I fully realize that my opinion on gambling is not universally held and I might even find that less than half of those who live in Marion County agree. Certainly, the vast majority of those with a bully pulpit in Central Indiana are opposed to gambling. I like to visit casinos and I like the idea that states and municipalities can generate funds from a sort of self-determined taxation.

Indiana has taken the approach that it wants to gain as much revenue as possible from a sinful practice that it somehow wants to discourage. So, instead of designing gaming laws to create tourist attractions and thereby maximize revenues, they have designed laws that create distal gaming locations to maximize attendance by sinners from abutting states.

Indiana initially located the casinos in the far edges of the state so as to attract the maximum number of sinners from Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky while minimizing the lure to sinners within our state. To make matters less unwholesome yet, they positioned it on boats that originally had to ship off the dock, if only to linger within spitting distance anyway. They then altered the rules to allow dockside gambling, but the boats still needed to have a seaworthy crew. Then came the French Lick casino legislation where they were able to build the tiniest of ponds around what was really a land casino. Come on, if you've visited French Lick you know how much that casino looks like a 400 pound adult sitting in a kiddie pool. But, the spirit of the law was followed. Then they allowed two Central Indiana racinos to operate, but without live table games. The overall aim would appear to be : minimize the Indiana sinning while maximizing the sinning by residents of other mid-west states.

So, little wonder that with the movement of Ohio into the casino business and the threat of Kentucky to get into the business, Indiana is becoming worried about how much revenue it can still get from its gaming licensees.

I would suggest, not that anyone listens to me on these matters, that the Governor and Legislature talk with experts in other states on issues like - clustering casinos to create tourist destinations, how tax rates affect revenues generated, and to what extent gaming taxes are a dependable source of revenue that could conceivably be used for operating expenses.

It might surprise you to know that Indiana ranked 2nd of all States just behind Nevada in total tax revenues from casino operations in 2008, pulling in a total of $838 million. State gaming revenues for fiscal year 2009 (which ended on June 30) were $621 million. In contrast, the state of Nevada pulled in $841 million in gaming and casino taxes for its fiscal year 2009. Our gaming revenue accounted for only 5% of all State revenue in fiscal year 2009, so we are not in a situation where we really need to worry about gambing taxes being necessary for ongoing operational expenses.

I have to admit that Indiana has done surprisingly well in securing these kinds of revenues with the approach it has taken. But, I do think it is time to abandon some of the more silly constraints on gaming and to move to land based casinos. Multiple licenses in a single municipality so as to create tourist destinations near airports would be my choice as well. Perhaps the best way would be to allow these decisions to be made by referenda in each County. Then it would be the wishes of all the voters of a locale and not just those who have a bully pulpit. I could live with that.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Council Entertains a Bevy of Proposals

The City-County Council agenda for its meeting next Monday, November 9, 2009, is now posted. Not much caught my eye for decision on Monday night, but a slew of interesting new proposals will be introduced.

Prop 404 and 405 would allow the County Assessor to rent space at 7363 E. 21st Street for an Eastside Satellite Office, and 5526 Elmwood Avenue for a Southside Satellite office. My first blush question is, why can't we rent space from the Township Trustees - you know, keep the money moving government to government to help with tax rates? We'll see what develops as far as information is concerned. Money is not mentioned, but the length of the leases is for 7 and 5 years respectively. Both were initiated by the County Assessor and sponsored by Councillor Moriarty Adams, and will be assigned to the Administration & Finance committee which next meets on Tuesday, November 10, beginning at 5:30 in room 260 of the City-County Building.

Prop 413 sponsored by Councillor Scales and drafted by the interim Director of Animal Care and Control, Teri Kendrick:

DIGEST: amends the Code to clarify the definition and violation of animal at large, to expand the definition of serious injury, to specifically provide for court-ordered forfeiture and/or destruction of an animal if serious injury to a person results from the animal chasing or approaching a person in an aggressive manner while at large, and to change the reference to serious bodily injury to serious injury in the section on owner responsibility for animal attacks
Looking at the proposed changes to the existing ordinance, the most significant changes would appear to be changing the definition of 'at large' to (red text added by proposal; green text in parentheses deleted by proposal):

At large means not confined without means of escape of any portion of the animal’s body in a pen, corral, yard, cage, house, vehicle or other secure enclosure, unless on a leash and under the control of a competent human being.

Serious injury, (for purposes of this chapter) means any injury (which results in a broken bone, lacerations severe enough to require multiple sutures, or to render cosmetic surgery necessary, or appropriate or death) that results in permanent disfigurement, unconsciousness, extreme pain, or permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.

Added, also, is that if an at-large dog seriously injures someone, then "the court upon request shall order the animal forfeited and/or destroyed".

Prop 413 will be assigned to the Public Safety and Criminal Justice committee that next meets on Wednesday, November 11, at 5:30 pm in room 260 of the City-County Building.

Prop 416, sponsored by Councillors Hunter and Moriarty-Adams, simply gives the right of way to bicycles when motor vehicles cross over a sidewalk. This goes to the Public Works committee that next meets on Thursday, November 19, at 5:30 pm in room 260 of the City-County Building.

Prop 417, "requests the General Assembly to amend existing statutes to provide that the Council has binding authority on reviews of township budgets in Marion County". This one was initiated by Councilor Malone and is co-sponsored by Councillors B. Mahern, Lutz, Smith and McHenry. The current law mandates that the Council undertake a non-binding review of the township and excluded cities budgets, which really looked like a huge waste of time this year. Although I did get some really good information that I would not otherwise have obtained, keeping the review non-binding does not make any sense. Prop 417 will be assigned to the Rules & Public Policy committee which next meets at 5:30 pm, November 17, in room 260.

Prop 418 is the most important Proposal being introduced Monday night, in my view. Initiated by Councillor Brian Mahern and co-sponsored by Councillors Lewis, Sanders, D. Mahern, Hunter, Smith, Mansfield and Malone, the Proposal is described as:

DIGEST: urges the General Assembly and Governor to grant additional authority to the Council to review and approve all tax abatements, postpone consideration of tax abatements and zoning changes, and review and approve any real estate acquisition by the Metropolitan Development Commission in excess of $25,000

A lengthy list of whereas clauses lay out the case for Council review of all abatements pretty clearly. This proposal would result in a Council Resolution, rather than an ordinance, because the State Legislature is the only body that can empower the Council with this authority. The truly bad deal that was proposed between the City and TM Miller Enterprises for a parking garage and a city block at 450 E. Market Street that was subject of zoning review by the Council this fall, is the poster child for why the fiscal body of this City should be able to review abatements granted by the MDC - much like they now have the authority to review zoning decisions of the MDC. More on this one in a later entry. Prop 418 will be assigned to the Metropolitan Development committee which next meets at 5:30 pm in room 260, Monday, November 16.

And rounding out list is Prop 419, initiated by Health & Hospitals Corporation and sponsored by Councillors McQuillen and Nytes.

DIGEST: approves the purchase, construction or acquisition by the Indianapolis-Marion County Building Authority of all or any portion of the Wishard Hospital project and a proposed lease or leases between the Building Authority and The Health and Hospital Corporation to finance all or any portion of the Wishard Hospital project

While the Wishard project was approved by the recent Referendum, the Council must still provide authorization for the IMCBA to participate in the overall bonding and leasing of the buildings. Still we have no breakdown of the fraction of general obligation bonds to be issued by H&H and the fraction of revenue bonds to be issued by the IMCBA. Perhaps someone at the hearing will pause and request this important information. Prop 419 will be assigned to the Admin & Finance committee which next meets at 5:30 pm, Tuesday, November 10, in room 260 of the City-County Building.

[edited on Nov 7 to mention that a public notice appeared in today's paper regarding public hearings on the proposed leases by the Marion County Assessor - 10:00 am, Nov. 17, room 260 of the City-County Building. The first lease agreement is for 2525 square feet of commercial office space at 7363 E. 21st Street. It is for 7 years at $39,137.52 per year plus utilities. The second lease agreement is for 3373 square feet at 5226 Elmwood Avenue. It is for 5 years at $30,342.50 per year plus utilities.]

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rules Committee Reviews Prop 303 & 378

The Rules Committee of the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council met last night with Prop 303 and 378 on its agenda. The whole meeting was 34 minutes long and can be viewed in the WCTY archives here - click on 'video' for November 4, 2009. The Rules committee is Chaired by Councillor Lutz and Councillors Malone, Pfisterer, Plowman, Cockrum, Mansfield, and Gray were members of the committee present last night. Also in attendance, but not members of this committee were Councillors Coleman and Oliver.

Prop 303 is Councillor Coleman's Proposal that would require the internet posting of all contracts involving the City or County government. This proposal was amended such that contracts must be posted within 14 days of being approved, there must be a search function for the postings, corporate counsel must review all contracts before posting and redact any information not considered public record by state law, all existing contracts going back to January 1, 2008 must be posted within 180 of the effective date of the ordinance, and the effective date of the ordinance will be January 1, 2010. The search feature should include searching by city department or agency, vendor name, and the like. Redactible information would include personal information such as social security numbers and is an action anticipated to be necessary very infrequently, given that contracts rarely contain non-public record information. It was made clear that this Proposal would not include contracts of the various Municipal Corporations. So the CIB, Airport, Library, and Health & Hospitals are not affected by Prop 303. The reason why escaped me, but I did gather that it was based on state law.

Public testimony included a comment by a fellow named Steven Hoback (as I heard his name) who suggested that interlocal agreements, which are not legally considered contracts, also be included in the ordinance. I presented McANA position of support. And last but not least, Keith Robinson of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government presented that organizations position of support. He also suggested that the Council take the ordinance one step further and post proposed contracts online so that the public can review them before the final decision is made to sign off on them. Councillor Coleman indicated he would be working on pulling both suggestions into the framework of Prop 303.

At the end of the discussion, Prop 303 was not voted on, but rather, postponed until the Rules Committee's November 17 meeting. This will give the Office of Finance and Management and the Office of Corporate Counsel time to finish their fiscal impact analysis.

Prop 378 was tabled. This Proposal for a Council Resolution asking Senators Lugar and Bayh to push for the removal of language in HR 915 (FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009) that would pull FedEx from unionizing rules under the Railway Labor Act and put them under the National Labor Relations Act. As discussed earlier, the inclusion of FedEx under RLA was a sweetheart deal to begin with and treated FedEx differently than UPS is treated. Council President Bob Cockrum stated that after the Committee acted on Prop 378 last time, he received phone calls from UPS representatives suggesting there was another side to the story. Cockrum then called for the Council to return the Proposal to the Committee for further consideration. He also invited representatives of FedEx and UPS to come present their viewpoint last night. Even though all had arrived, there were no statements made and the Proposal was tabled. Councillor Cockrum noted that HR 915 had moved out of the House and into two committees of the Senate - one of which had stripped the language in question and the other of which was not expected to consider it for a little while. So, saying it might end up being a moot point, the Committee voted to table the issue until such time as it seems warranted to raise it again. Good move to bring this one back to Committee and great move to table it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Just like a season finale in a rivoting television series, this thing ain't over. The Wishard referendum won in a landslide, but its not the end, its just a cliffhanger. Left to linger in anticipation for the next go round are the following issues:

For how long will Matt Gutwein and the Marion County Health & Hospitals Corporation be able to pay off the general obligation bonds with profits? When will they turn to property taxes, which, had they been totally honest about things, more folks would have known about when they voted. Will they just try to hide it in the budget and let taxpayers read it in their property tax bills?

Will the Legislature again pick and choose favored projects that they feel should escape the minimal requirements set for public questions?

Will the Star repair its reputation after flaunting itself so wantonly for Wishard?

Will any legal authority look into the use of public facilities, like the Mayor's office, the distribution of pro-literature to school children to take home, the decisions on where to locate satellite voting centers, etc., that were an assist to the landslide?

Will the feds decide the nursing home 'business' of H&H is too much like a scam to continue to qualify for higher fee payments than other nursing home businesses?

As the flashbulbs illuminate the raised champagne glass and the scene fades, remember to tune in next time as we resume the story.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wishard Referendum - Vote No !

Keep them honest - no property taxes to pay for the new Wishard complex. Vote NO tomorrow.

Remember, if the referendum is denied, they can still float revenue bonds for their new campus. Hell, a NO vote might even prod Health & Hospitals to ask IU to help financially support their new teaching hospital ! But, if they say they can finance the project with ongoing revenues, make them prove it.

Vote NO on the Wishard Referendum.

Council Action - Last Week and This

This week we should have a really interesting meeting of the Rules and Public Policy committee of the City-County Council. I also want to backtrack to the full Council meeting a week ago and give you the vote on the smoking ban.

The Rules committee will meet this Wednesday evening at 5:30 pm in room 260 of the City-County Building. Two items are on the agenda. Finally coming to a hearing is Prop 303, authored by Councillor Ed Coleman. As mention in an earlier entry, this proposal would require all contracts with the City-County government be posted online within 7 days of being signed. This is a good step forward in convenient public access to information. I know I will be watching this vote very closely.

Also on this agenda is Prop 378 - the FedEx resolution - which was returned to committee at the last full Council meeting. This proposal, too, was discussed earlier. In short, the union trade rules that FedEx has been living under because of a special inclusion in the law, is now being taken from them under the current language of the "FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009". FedEx would like the Council to back its efforts to have that language removed. The nut of the issue is that FedEx employees must now unionize as a single, national union and act only if all agree. If FedEx were stripped of its special protection by the Railway Labor Act, and placed under the National Labor Relations Act like its competitor UPS is, then the employees could unionize by trade and by location, giving them more flexibility in organizing and negotiations. Whatever your view of unions, the rules for unionizing should be uniform and this resolution strays mightily in suggesting that making FedEx play by the same rules as UPS will cause layoffs here in Indy. In any case, the Rules committee has it back for renewed consideration.

The last full Council meeting did have a vote on the smoking ban. For full disclosure, I don't honestly know how I would have voted were I in the Councillors' seats. I find I fall into an internal debate between the rights of individuals to conduct a legal activity that has been the social norm for generations, the rights of individuals to find employment in smoke-free environments, and the acknowledgement that this is the path that freeing citizens from the toxins in cigarettes is and will be taking - one community at a time opting to narrow the places one can legally smoke. As a scientist I am very concerned about promoting data that any non-smoker who comes down with lung cancer must have been victim of second hand smoke and not IPL's downtown high-sulfur coal plant, or smog, or particulate release from urban mining operations. I don't want a spot on that bandwagon. But, nonetheless, smoking cigarettes will not be made illegal. Thus efforts to minimize smoking and its health risks to smokers will follow this now well worn path. For me the final question is not how Indy will reduce smoking, but when is the right time?

Enough about me. We all know, thanks to Matt Tully's column, that Mayor Ballard ducked that leadership thing once again and chose to do his best Boss Hog impersonation by appearing at the Republican caucus meeting prior to the Council meeting and let them know he did not want this ordinance to appear on his desk. No ordinance - no disclosure of a position - no harm to a reelection effort. No leadership. (I'd provide a link to Tully's column but its not available at for some reason. Instead here's a link to Gary Welsh's Advance Indiana piece with an embedded link that may get reactivated some day.) Francesca Jarosz' Star piece, published 2 days prior to Tully's piece, which describes the Council's debate is still available on their website.

Here's how the Councillors voted on the smoking ban, Prop 371 : Yes (12) Republicans Hunter, Malone, Smith, and Vaughn, joined Democrats Bateman, Evans, Lewis , B. Mahern, Mansfield, Moriarty, Nytes, and Sanders. No (13) Libertarian Coleman and Democrats Brown and Oliver, joined Republicans Cain, Cardwell, Cockrum, Day, Lutz, McHenry, McQuillen, Plowman, Scales, and Speedy. Democrats D. Mahern and Gray abstained from the vote and Councillors Minton-McNeill and Pfisterer were absent all night. The vote failed.

While one cannot know how the Republicans would have voted had Mayor Ballard not instructed them not to let it get to his desk, one does have to wonder. And, one has to wonder whether any of the Councillors believe they have a duty as separately elected officials to act separately from their party and separately from the reelection efforts of the Mayor of the same party.

I do want to thank Councillors Hunter and Mansfield for authoring Prop 371 and Councillors Evans and Malone for signing on to it. A smoking ban is a discussion this community needs to have. And we will have it again because this is the path down which smoking in Indy will be curtailed. The only question is when.

Keeping Our Fingers Crossed on Murders

Following on the heels of the Forbes 'safest cities' faux pas, the Star lends a hand to Mayor Ballard by running a piece in today's edition on how we just might squeak through 2009 with fewer than 100 murders. That sure would be nice.

For those who like to follow these things, devotes at least 95% of its efforts to real time tracking of murders in our community.

Community policing gets the nod as to what is having an impact. Of course, trends up in violent crime are usually credited to increased percentages of teenage youth in a community or something equally outside of public safety control, while dropping rates are credited to some police action. That aside, Scott Newman's analytical approach to proving that something works, then repeating those proven activities, was a real advantage in our City. Hopefully that emphasis is not gone with his departure.

Let's keep our fingers crossed that there indeed are fewer than 100 homicides in Indianapolis in 2009. Then lets keep our fingers crossed that IMPD can pinpoint how to keep that number dropping.