Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Reflections on Election Day

I've had a little rest and relaxation since last week and am back to blogging.  Before I move off Election Day, though, I'd like to share some random thoughts from working the polls last Tuesday.

Turnout was great !  We got over 50% and the precinct we shared the site with got over 60%.

Although voters were focused, there wasn't the same level of anger evident four years ago.

The yellow postcards telling folks where their polling site was located were a hit.  Many people brought them along, and in one particular case it helped resolve a voter registration issue so that person could vote a regular ballot.

People rely on the BMV to change voter registration at the same time as they change the address on their driver's license.  The BMV is not to be trusted with this, as they time and time again drop the ball on the voter registration.  Last Tuesday we had at least a dozen people who thought all was well after dealing with the BMV.  Not so.  If you ever try to change your voter registration through the BMV - make sure you get a receipt from them showing that effort.  Keep the receipt.  No matter how you try to change your voter registration take heed of the following:  If you do not get a card in the mail within two months from Voter Registration, stating your name, your address, and your voter number, CALL Voter Registration and inquire.  Their number is 327-5040.  It is best not to wait until Election Day to try to resolve these issues, as you very well might be denied the right to vote because you are not properly registered.

I prefer days when we have a constant stream of voters to days when few show up to the polls.

I dislike the way the County Parties use the process to gather their information on Election Day.  The Rs sat someone at the 'challenge table' (we had no challengers) who kept their voter call list updated as well as inquiring as to phone numbers.  This held up the line at times.  The Ds, too cheap to pay someone to sit at the challenge table, got the law changed so that the Clerk may keep tabs on who has voted.  The Clerk is a busy person on Election Day, checking voters in, checking IDs, initialling ballots, and referring issues to the Judges and/or Inspector.  Especially on busy voting days, this is more than enough to keep track of and screening another list for a voter's name ties up the line.

I prefer the voting machine that you feed the paper ballot into, as it leaves the paper trail.   The touch screen voting machine leaves no way to double check the voter's intention.

We have a great crew in DE-11 and DE-16.  Many of us have worked together for nearly a decade.

The day is usually a social one - those days when you get few problems to resolve, anyway.  You see folks you know and get to catch up a bit on what's been happening.  Its nice.

Beth White has done an outstanding job with elections.  Every year it seems to get just a bit smoother and just a bit less complicated.  The biggest disappointment among most voters this year, was that we ran out of 'I voted, I count' stickers.  I have to say I'm surprised at how really popular those stickers are.

About 10% of our voters chose early voting - with slightly more doing it in person at City Hall than through an absentee ballot sent through the mail.

Its nice to see young people serving at the polls.  Those of us who have served a while need replacements.  If that might be you, let your County Party or the Election Board know of your willingness to give it a try.  You just might like it. 

Election Day is a long day, yet a satisfying one.  We do something important - make sure voters participate in a fair election, with the least amount of delay to the voters as we can manage.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Do your part - VOTE !!!

Polls are open from 6 am to 6 pm.  Be in line by 6 pm and you can vote.

You know the rule : If you don't vote, you don't get to complain !

Check with the Voter Information Portal to find your polling location and to check your registration.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Letter to the Editor Gets it Right - Mayor Gambles With Public Safety

Today's IndyStar has a letter to the editor that gets it exactly right when it comes to the Mayor's veto of funding for County Offices.  Here's the letter:

We are Indianapolis workers, public servants, faith and community leaders, and we are willing to urge Mayor Greg Ballard to fund the services that keep Hoosiers safe. On Oct. 26, the mayor used political maneuvering to slash public safety funding at the 11th hour after the City-County Council reached an agreement on the budget with bipartisan support. This stunt might win the mayor points with his donors, but it doesn’t keep our community safe or help our city move forward.

As the crime rate in our city continues to increase, Mayor Ballard is trying to force our community to accept funding cuts for essential public safety services. The mayor is cutting funding that helps pay to process or defend those accused of crimes, process crime scenes, investigate deaths, operate the courts, run the jails and provide other public services. We believe that the mayor’s unprecedented action to cut these funds is wrong and are troubled by City-County Council leadership’s allegation that his action was illegal.

As residents of Indianapolis and leaders in our community, we urge Mayor Ballard to reconsider his decision before our city suffers the consequences. Safety should be a priority for our city government. We can’t afford to gamble with our security or the services our community depend on.

Chrystal Radcliff
NAACP, President of Greater Indianapolis NAACP Chapter

Nancy Holle
President, Community Faith and Labor Coalition

Rev C. L. Day
President, Concerned Clergy

Joanne Sanders
National Vice President, Coalition of Labor Union Women

Brett Voorhies
President, Central Indiana Labor Council (AFL-CIO)

Amy Shackelford
Lead community organizer, Jobs with Justice

Jennifer Disla
Indianapolis Director, SEIU Local 1

Double Check Your Polling Site & Your Voter Registration For Tomorrow

The Election Board website has an awesome app that everyone should take advantage of - especially if you have not vote at all yet this year.  Last year the precinct boundaries were moved and you may not live in the same precinct you used to.  In addition, there are normally some changes of polling locations simply because new sites become available and/or old sites become inadequate in some way.

This app is called the Voter Information Portal.

If you enter only your address, you can get a copy of the ballot you would receive tomorrow, the address of your polling location, and a mapping function that will give you driving directions as well.

If you enter your birthday, as well, you will also be able to review your voter registration information.  If there is a problem, you will have a little more time to get it worked out so that you can vote a regular ballot at the polls tomorrow.  Any problems, call 327-VOTE (327-8683).

Friday, November 2, 2012

Council Republicans - Its Obvious Now, They'll Never Stand Up To Vaughn

Mayor Ryan Vaughn has a bullying problem - and his cohorts on the Council have not taken him on, even when it means they cannot fulfill the job they were elected to do because of his vindictive vetoes of the Council-passed budget.

Much like a wife beater who blames their battered spouse, claiming he just wanted to 'have a conversation', Vaughn has lashed out at the Democrats, crippling the Council budget and that of every other duly elected Democrat in County government, but denying any responsibility for his outlandish, brutish actions.  According to his enablers, he was forced to do it because the Democrats would not talk with him and all he wants to do is 'have a conversation'.

The Republicans voted in lockstep on each and every vote last night to override Vaughn's vetoes of the budget (Councillors Scales, Gooden, and Freeman were absent).  If there were any time they should have stood up to Vaughn, it surely was when the vote was to override his veto of the Council's entire character 3 budget.  That is their budget.  I now have to give up hope that the Council will ever be more than an appendage of whoever is Mayor, not the independent body we should have.

Let's look at all the alternatives Vaughn had at his disposal.

1) Do nothing except use his soap box to cast derision upon the Democrat led Council.  He and his PR firm have been successful in getting the editorial writers at the Star and IBJ to denounce the Council's efforts to be circumspect and responsible in passing his TIF districts.  He has been successful in his behind the scenes blackmail and threats and pretending to share power with the greedy and ambitious.  But, that was not enough.  The Council had the audacity to disobey Vaughn.  They wanted a recruit class for IMPD and IFD - and they found a way to fund it.  They did not want to do as they were told and rejected the elimination of the homestead credit - a credit that the Republican controlled Council chose to fund with COIT money just three years ago, after the property tax caps were in full effect.  No, this was not an option for someone who will not be disobeyed.

2) Send down only the commentary on the $15 M PILOT that the Council required of the CIB.  This statement said that if the money were ever actually collected, Vaughn would veto any attempt to spend the funds.  This totally blocks the purpose of the PILOT, yet still leaves the door open for cooperation in the future.  Such a move would be enough if the aim were to have a balanced budget that worked for everyone in 2013.  That, however, was never the aim.

3) Send down the commentary on the PILOT and cut the Council budget by $652,654 in character 3.  The point in vetoing the Council budget is to keep the Council from introducing its own Council District maps and litigating those maps in court.  That amounts to $100,000.  That may be less than the raises Vaughn and his buddies on the 25th floor got, but it represents independent thinking and that shall not be tolerated in a Vaughn administration.  Gutting the ability of the Council to pay the rent, pay the light bill, hire attorneys or their CFO, or to even pay to put public notices in the paper as required by law will cripple the ability of duly elected officials, Republican and Democrat alike, to do their job.  President Maggie Lewis notes in a letter to constituents that this veto is "political bullying at work, not leadership".

4) None of these options being enough, Vaughn's next step would be to add the veto of the use of the money in the County General Fund for any County agency.  This is the big one - $31.8 million.  It cannot be said often enough that this is the part of the budget left untouched by the Council and it was pretty much what the introduced budget included.  At this point, logic left the building.  This is shear and naked vindictiveness.  Not that long ago, the County was under court order to bring its housing of inmates into line with human dignity.  Public safety is not just the cops on the streets, its the jail and the courts as well.  Job one in the Vaughn administration is not public safety, job one is not getting contradicted by the Council - and making sure they feel the pain if they get out of line.  Vaughn was a total coward when it came to cutting off the funding for the County agencies.  He is letting the DLGF decide exactly where those cuts will fall, instead of making those choices as part of his veto package.

5) And still - with the pain pushed to every corner of County government except those departments controlled by the Mayor's office - and still, this was not enough.  This last step was surely the most illuminating.  The Council had the temerity to create a subfund in the city's general fund that could only be used for police and fire recruiting and training. It was empty, but could be filled with any source of funds, including those from the $15 M CIB PILOT.  This fund caused no harm.  It was empty.  It would disappear without a fuss on December 31, 2013.  The existence of this fund, though, was more than Vaughn could stand.  It reeked of disobedience.  It had to go.

Vaughn is no longer an elected official, unlike the Councillors.  It is disheartening that those Councillors on the Republican side of the aisle would not tell Vaughn he had gone too far this time.  They enable the bully every time they acquiesce to his nasty machinations.

Instead they repeated all the falsehoods Vaughn is now trying to hide behind. 

Councillor Hunter said last night "I warned the Council the night this came up", referring to the police and fire recruit fund.

Councillor Pfisterer brought up the $35 m structural deficit not eliminating the homestead credit supposedly would cause through the end of 2014.  No alarms went out last year when the Republican controlled Council passed this year's budget using $40 m from the downtown TIF.  No alarms went out this year either, when another $10 m was pulled from the same source for next year.  And, it is factually inaccurate, to boot.  The Council's budget is as sound as the Mayor's introduced budget.  The fact of the matter is, that the recession will fade and the tax coffers will fill.  The income tax receipts are already rebounding and property values have stopped falling.  It is the Mayor's actions on TIFs that really jeopardize every taxing unit in Marion County and the services they provide.

Councillor Miller, who read a lengthy statement that demonstrates he understands exactly what is happening, bought into the idea that this is all about having a conversation.  He said "while I don't like coming to a conversation with a shotgun at my head, I have to agree that at this point a shotgun was the only way to get us to talk, and that's a shame".  That's simply not true, even though I think he believes it.  What exactly is to be discussed?  This budget process began back in August.  Plenty of time for discussion.  It was clear from the beginning that funding recruit classes was a priority of the Democrats - a goal Miller supported by the way.  Vaughn owns a phone.  Lewis owns a phone.  There could have been conversation.  These vetoes aren't about jump starting a conversation - they are about control.

I lost track of who repeated the thought that the appropriations remain, its just that the money won't be available to fund those appropriations for the County agencies.  That is clearly not true as the DLGF will insist on cutting appropriations so that the spending matches the funds available.  Whether they will wield an ax or a scalpel is unknown.

Vaughn's public display of temper will harm the Council, the County agencies, public safety, and the citizens of Indianapolis.  The least destructive road to travel at this point is for the Mayor's office to walk this back.  Allow the appropriations and funding to be reintroduced and not vetoed - and by January 1, 2013.  After that date the Council will not have the money to hold legally noticed meetings.  The shotgun Miller alludes to, is really aimed at forcing/blackmailing the Council into agreeing to raise taxes - likely in a few places besides the elimination of the homestead credit - and equally likely, pushing forward more of the Mayor's agenda.  Its not about the budget.  Its not about just wanting a conversation.  Its far more nefarious than that.  And the Council Republicans aided, abetted, and enabled Vaughn's vindictive and abusive ways.